By Rev. Randy Coleman
Come again, Paul, what did you just write? Did you really mean that if we welcome one another and do it like Christ did, then we are glorifying God in that way? I imagine the original Christians at Rome probably were flabbergasted or at least scratching their heads at the reading of this verse. Paul summarizes the first six verses of this chapter where he noted that Christians must put others first. Going even further back to 13:8, he reminded his readers of the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And the only way that is possible is to receive God’s love first and then love him in return with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” (Mark 12:29-31).
Yes, Paul is comparing the way we treat others with our relationship with God, just as Jesus did. Love for others and love for God go hand in hand. If we are to love God with our whole being, then we are also to love others, and welcoming them is part of that love for others. On Sunday mornings or throughout the week, anytime you greet or welcome a brother or sister in Christ, you are loving and glorifying God. So, the welcome goes much beyond a simple, fleeting, handshake or a warm hug. It is a major part of our relationship with God himself. We’ve already begun worshiping even before the first hymn is sung, and we’ve continued worshiping even beyond the last stanza of the last song. Welcoming others is truly welcoming God.
And this welcoming of others goes beyond greeting brothers and sisters. To the Roman Christians, Paul very clearly included all nations, meaning all people groups. He specifically states that they were to welcome the Gentiles as well as their fellow Jews. They were to welcome the Gentiles so that they “might glorify God for his mercy” (v. 9). Wow, now I can imagine the Jewish Christians at Rome scratching their heads even more. “What,” Paul, they say, “You want us to even include those smelly, unclean, uncircumcised people? We really don’t want anything to do with them. Is this what we have to do in order to glorify God?” And Paul would respond with a resounding, “Yes!”
That’s why he goes on to include four more OT passages to verify the truth that God accepts all people and wants them to do the same. Even the “Gentiles will place their hope in him” (v. 12). Thus, God is also expecting us today to include all people in our welcome, which includes all foreigners, immigrants, widows, orphans, outcast, and all ethnic groups. It includes those who are hard to love – those who don’t return our love or repay our kindness with ridicule. When we do love them with no strings attached, then we are truly glorifying God. So, are you ready to welcome all others and glorify God? I pray that your answer, and our church’s answer, is yes!